Vinod Mubayi and Raza Mir


For better or for worse, the Indian film industry, sometimes referred to as Bollywood, remains an important marker of the Indian identity. Bollywood is truly a contested terrain where forces of neoliberalism clash with socialism, where communalism engages secularism, where rampant sexism meets the forces of feminism and caste ideology is reinforced and contested.


In this regard, it is natural that the Hindutva regime at India’s centre would try and appropriate Bollywood in multiple ways. For example, we have seen the installation of Gajendra Chauhan as the director of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Mr, Chauhan’s only claim to fame, other than the sycophantic support of the BJP, was that he had played Krishna in the popular TV serial Mahabharat. The students of FTII responded by a huge strike, which lasted months, but that has since been broken. Pahalaj Nihalani, a filmmaker of dubious credentials, was appointed the President of the Board of Film Censors in India, and responded by making an embarrassingly bad ad film lauding “Modi Kaka,” which was so strewn with errors that people wondered if it was a spoof by leftists! Now we have the spectacle of Bajrang Dal activists picketing Shahrukh Khan’s film Dilwale on the grounds that the actor had commented about the rising climate of intolerance in Indian society, and also stopping screenings of another film Bajirao Mastani, which shows a romance between a Marathi warlord and a Muslim woman.


Cultural nationalism is the stock in trade of Indian illiberalism. Cricket and Bollywood are the two bastions of Indian nationalism that it seems to have targeted especially. In the world of cricket, the government of India finally scuttled plans for an India Pakistan series to be played on Sri Lanka.


The fight for a secular and socialist space in South Asia must go on in 2016. To that end, we warmly wish our readers a happy holiday season and a more hopeful 2016!

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